Racist brainwashing by Biro Tatanegara – GRR

Biro Tatanegara (rough translation: Civics Bureau) is a Government-run agency that organises mandatory “citizenship” workshops for students that have received Government scholarships for tertiary education. Under the guise of “education” and “building a multicultural Malaysian culture”, these workshops are hubs of anti-Chinese/Indian/etc racism and anti-Semitism, shaming non-Malays while claiming Malaysia to be a Malay-only nation.

Education in Malaysia has been compiling stories from students and observers of these workshops. Here’s an excerpt of their experiences:

Jew-blaming:

…Malaysiakini reported that first-year students of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) were told at a seminar organised by BTN that foreign elements which want to see chaos in Malaysia were funding certain student groups. The speakers drew a link between these local student groups, ASA and the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit organisation which they said was sponsored by American and Jewish elements.

Indians, blogs, and Christians are evil:

He even said, “Kalau ular dengan India depan mata, ketuk India dulu.” (If a snake and an Indian are in front of you, hit the Indian first.) … He said so many atrocious things that I will list them down in point form.

-Explained how the Malays aren’t racist but others are racist towards us.
-Bangsa Malaysia (The Malaysian race) does not exist, neither does Malaysian Chinese and Indians, only in the strict Malay, Chinese and Indians. (Interestingly, behind a booklet provided to us, one of the objectives of the programme is to produce a -“Bangsa Malaysia”. Obviously, he was ignorant).
-Bahasa Malaysia (Malaysian language) does not exist, it is Bahasa Melayu (Malay language).
-Nothing wrong with waving the Keris (A traditional ceremonial Malay dagger which some politicians have waved in anti-non-Malay sentiment).
-Bumiputra (Malays and indigenous people) hanya 55% di Malaysia, give birth more people!
-The University and Colleges Act was partly made to ensure a Malay Vice-Chancellor in Universities which should be the way.
-Blogs are “berdosa” or sinful.
-Christians will not like Muslims.

Even the Malays reacted badly:

The instructors blatantly told them that they should not question the rights and privileges of the Malays as the non-Malays should be thankful that they were given citizenship status and a place to stay on their soil. My daughter together with the other non-Malay students was shocked and went back to their dormitories depressed. And to the Malay students, the instructors told them to be aware of this fact and not to mix too freely with the non-Malays.

A Malay friend of my daughter came back crying to the dormitory saying that she could not take the racist position taken by the government authority. My daughter then began questioning the bumiputra policy and was disgusted with such blatant indoctrination. This incident has also made the students harbour anger and resentment. Their fear for the authorities and losing their scholarships made them keep their cool.

When Education in Malaysia blogger and MP Tony Pua queried Biro Tatanegara about these allegations, this was their reply, as roughly translated into English by me (it’s originally in Malay):

Biro Tatanegara is an agency that runs courses based on citizenship and patriotic spirit within the whole of Malaysian society. Participants of these courses come from various cultures and age groups.

BTN also uses information or statistics that are obtained from other government agencies such as the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), the Statistics Department, the Implementation and Adjustment(?) Unit (ICU), the Ministry of Finance, and other Ministries in presenting facts to the participants, and it is departmental policy to not allow BTN speakers to touch on anything that can disturb the feelings of any race, and if this has happened the Department will drop them from being a BTN speaker.

In relation to your query, BTN realises that it’s on the blogs on the Internet, and based on our investigations, [your] claims (the bit about the snake and the Indian) are false. It is possible that some speakers had explained a few Indian proverbs relating to Indian societal matters that were misunderstood by the listener. Investigations have been undertaken and we have found no recordings that could be used as proof to verify the allegation.

As for your second query, BTN has never received any complaints about the matters that you have mentioned, and as far as we know there has not been any airing of videos like the ones you described (anti-Semitic clips) in our courses as organised by the Department.

According to past scholars that have attended such workshops, all recording devices (including mobile phones) are confiscated upon entry and all materials are carefully counted upon return. Many have said that they are too fearful to speak out as they are threatened with the loss of their scholarship – which, considering that many recipients are from low-income backgrounds and there aren’t many other funding options available, would be a major blow.

This sickens me to the core. I’ve heard plenty of racism in school but was lucky enough to not get a Government scholarship and therefore be indoctrinated into BTN’s faulty logic. Some of those that have been to these workshops have sadly reported on their peers passing on racist messages through social networking sites and being completely influenced by these workshops. If anyone’s threatening national security, it would be these goons!

I would like to see a private scholarship fund started for these students, so that they still have funding options for higher study without being gagged and afraid to speak up. There should be a way to get recordings of these workshops, even if it means James Bond-style spy gear. This menace – which is 100% funded by taxpayer money! – needs to disappear.

(Side note to Mum: I’m sorry for scaring you again. [I participated in a rally against the Clean Feed filter in Brisbane and spoke up about censorship in Malaysia – she saw my words and video and got scared.] I take full responsibility for anything that comes out of this. But unless things are done quickly, more and more young people will be brainwashed and we’ll just have an intolerant nation.)

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: Changing the World Since Age 9

If you think young people don’t have the capacity, interest, or drive to make the world a better place, watch this speech and think again:

That powerful speech (transcript here) is by Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who started the Environmental Children’s Organization in Canada when she was nine, and at twelve delivered the above to world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Her passion for environmental awareness still lives on today, with the creation of online think-tank The Skyfish Project and her current studies in ethnobotany.

I’ve heard from quite a few adults – some who should really know better – who lament the idea that young people are too apathetic to care about the world. However, as examples like Severn show, passionate socially-conscious young people are out there making a difference every day. Indeed, the Social Citizens project has published a paper detailing the efforts and consciousness of the Millenials (the current generation of 15-to-29 year-olds) and their important social change work. Severn is on the edge of this generation, but she is a great representative of the power young people hold.

Do you know of any other young people like Severn? Share your examples here.

Doug Belshaw’s 10 ‘Home Truths’ about Schooling and Education

Education blogger Doug Belshaw posits his musings about schooling and education, at least in the traditional systems:

1. For there to be ‘good’ parents there must be ‘bad’ parents. The same is true of teachers.
2. It is almost impossible to effect a fundamental change in worldview in an individual whom you see as part of a class of ~30 for less than an hour per week.
3. To learn how to ride a bicycle you have to take the stabilisers off at some point. In the same way, Internet safety cannot be taught effectively in an artificially closed, filtered, environment.
4. More content ? more achievement.
5. Being good at passing examinations does not mean an individual will be of benefit of society or ‘flourish’ (in an Aristotelian sense)
6. Technology often serves to magnify talents and, moreover, weaknesses in pedagogy.
7. If some pilots knew the same about flying as some teachers know about ‘real’ teaching, the aircraft would never get to its destination.
8. It may be a cliché to cite time-motion studies that show that the majority of time in school, children are waiting for something to happen. This does not mean, however, that the situation has been rectified.
9. If the school is a business, then each department should know how the others fit into corporate aims and philosophies. If it is not, and is child-centred, it needs to have a holistic approach. Either way, most schools need to improve communication between subject areas.
10. One of the chief functions of schools in the 21st century is to babysit children for ever-increasing periods of time (think: extended schools).

#5 is especially noteworthy, at least for Malaysian attitudes.

Guest Post: Max Norman – Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

Max Norman is the main blogger of Ask The Kid, where he provides answers to life’s queries from the perspective of a young person. We are pleased to bring you a guest post by him today:


Being a Diplomat in a Multicultural World

We no longer live in a world of nations and governments; we live in a world of sects and movements, religions and cultures. As you already know, these differences have lead to great conflict and senseless hate. As the next generation, we must embrace this world, for it can not be changed. We need to learn the art of diplomacy in a new fashion, for a new world. It is up to us to re sow the seeds of peace and well being, of enlightenment and education, because the world will fall apart without peace; people will keep fighting until the end. If you practice diplomacy, you will set yourself apart, gain respect and help make the world a more peaceful place.

These skills aren’t something you can learn in school. They must be tried, tested and refined in the real world with real people. The family unit is a fairly apt forum to practice the majority of your diplomacy abilities, although the broader skills must be engaged with other, different people. To start off, you must learn how to communicate your thoughts effectively–this is usually what starts conflicts. Speak, write or illustrate ideas in a simple manner in a common language, and spend all the necessary time to get your point across. Staying persistent reaffirms confidence in relationships, because it shows that you are patient and willing to accept differences; this makes a good impression. It is VERY important to make a good first impression, but remember that with each culture, virtues change. Do research to explore the manners and courtesy of the person’s/organization’s culture.

Understanding motivations is a key tool for solving problems and creating new relationships, even if the motivation is foreign and seems unfounded. Everyone is driven by passion, which can be used to sway their feelings; if one can tap their driving force and aim it in a new direction, your goal is achieved. This must be done using rhetorical skills and demonstrations persistently to convince them of the right way to go. For example, if a criminal is shown the consequences of crime, then shown how much better life is preventing crime, many times they will migrate away from illegality. If not, a stern action–like an arrest–can set them on the road to enlightenment. This applies directly to conflict: if you show the trouble makers why they are wrong, provide a solution and foster change, people might just change their minds, which even in small increments advances your cause. Motivation never goes away; it just shifts in a new direction.

In our world today, a lot of violence is fueled by heritage. In Iraq, the Sunnis are fighting the Shiites because once very long ago, one of the sects–it is not known which–murdered a relative of Mohammed, the creator of Islam. The terrorists who kill themselves for these causes were told to do so from a very young age, which is important to keep in mind. This same pattern occurs is most religious wars, and must be taken into account when negotiating and appeasing members of these parties. One must at least appear independent of both sides, and talk as equals to find out what is causing this violence. From there, steps can be made to appease warring factions.

The quest for peace is as old as humankind. Until recently, diplomacy was on the national level with governments and rulers, but it has now shifted to sects, organizations and cultures—all different. To negotiate for peace, you need to be able to communicate your solutions effectively, and always understand that determination is not superficial: much conflict is brought about by deeply rooted emotional factors such as religion and history. Practice these skills; use them at home and at school, for you will be the ones using them in the future. Even in the best of times, conflict will not be completely vanquished, but diplomacy can work on issues bit by bit, every one bringing you closer to peace.


If you’d like to contribute a guest post for EducateDeviate, feel free to contact me with your ideas. I’m particularly looking for contributions from young people on topics that interest them.

Other resources for opportunities – alternative education, youth empowerment, getting involved

There have been many opportunities for fellowships, conferences, scholarships, courses, and so on that come my way and should really be on this blog. However, I haven’t always had the time to post all the information that comes my way – especially when about 10 of them come at once in a newsletter.

I get my information mainly from a few sources, and I would recommend that you check those sources out to find more great opportunities for youth and alternative education. Here’s where to look:

TakingITGlobal – awesome resource for young people looking to make a difference. Events, scholarships, groups, projects, whatever – everything you need is there.

Have Fun Do Good – Britt Bravo’s blog has a lot of information and resources on making a difference in creative ways. I particularly like the books she recommends – she has great taste (and great luck because she gets the books for free!)

TinKosong – this blog, started by a bunch of Malaysian university students, contains regular information on opportunities for young Malaysians to get involved and expand their education. A lot of the information we have is crossposted between the two blogs, since we both have a similar scope (though they do come from a more Ivy base).

Education in Malaysia – the other top Malaysian education blog (haha), whose founder Tony Pua is now an MP! While EiM is more about analysis and commentary rather than opportunities, they do sometimes appear, and it’s a good resource for current affairs in education anyhow.

Ask MetaFilter – every so often there will be a question about travel, education, or opportunities, and the answers given would be top notch. The main site, Metafilter, doesn’t really carry much links about opportunities, but it’s worth a watch.

The Star: Education – Every week in their Sunday pullout, they write up about different educational opportunities and events across Malaysia, and it’s republished on the website. Youth2 is another good source in the paper; however, their website isn’t quite as regularly updated.

GoAbroad and TransitionsAbroad – both great resources for anything to do with travel and going abroad. GoAbroad also has a regular newsletter with information on different programs that you can subscribe to.

ActNow – This Australian-based website is all about educating and empowering youth to make change in their communities. Within their pages are plenty of information and resources on current issues, and ways you can get involved.

World Youth Foundation – this Malaysia-based organization releases a regular email newsletter with all sorts of updates and information on youth empowerment and making a difference.

Young Social Enterprise Initiative – they provide various programs and fellowships for young social entrepreneurs to gain funding and mentoring for their work and enterprises. Their social network, FutureShifters, allows young social entrepreneurs to connect with each other and share ideas.

Global Youth Action Network – the organization that links youth-based organizations together. Their newsletter, YouthLink Express, has all sorts of information on events, conferences, possible scams (which are unfortunately an issue with youth conferences), organizations, and many others.

International Young Professionals Foundation – not just for young professionals, but for any young person seeking to make a difference. Membership is inexpensive (and there are funding options if you can’t afford it) and they have tons of information on various opportunities across the globe.

Social Edge – Opportunities – such an AMAZING resource for anything to do with social change and social entrepreneurship. Check out their main site too for discussions and resources on the same topics.

Do you have any other resources for such information and opportunities? Post a comment and share them with us.

Edublogger Tony Pua now Member of Parliament

Tony Pua, co-writer of top Malaysian education blog Education in Malaysia, won his seat in PJ Utara in Malaysia’s recent elections, and is now a Member of Parliament. He is one of a handful of Malaysian bloggers that are now officially involved in politics.

This will be interesting. I knew about Tony’s nomination, but I didn’t think he’d win mainly because he’s under DAP and the Opposition hardly wins in Malaysian elections. However, this year’s elections have been surprisingly good for the Opposition (now not Opposition? haha), and Tony’s one of the beneficiaries of that good fortune. Another factor against him was that he didn’t have any political experience – and who expects a blogger to get into Parliament? Now we have 2 in federal and 2 in state assembly! Crazy!

Tony and I have been acquainted due to our similar blogs, and we’re often crossposting from each other. We sometimes have diametrically opposing views on education (for example, Tony’s big on determining the value of universities by their rankings; I think rankings are bunk) but we still respect and quite like each other.

Hopefully Tony will be able to introduce some changes to the Malaysian education system, making it more open and varied and supportive of students. Will Tony be Minister of Education? I doubt it (wouldn’t all the Ministers have to be from BN since they are the majority?) but I’d definitely like to see it happen – at least he knows what he’s doing!

Good luck Tony and all the best!

Nominees for Young Entrepreneur eBook are up!

Daniel and I have shortlisted the nominees of our Young Entrepreneur eBook project and they are now up for voting.

Click on this link to vote for your favourite young entrepreneur here now!